Hemp Farming in South Africa 101

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Hemp was an illegal crop in South Africa but with pressure from local and international investors, the government finally legalized hemp farming under certain conditions. In a positive move to embrace hemp industry, the South African Minister of Health published the cannabis industries’ canonization in the Government Gazette on 23rd May 2019. In 2018 Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, legalized cannabis for personal and private cultivation, possession, use and consumption.

Hemp can be used to make over 25,000 products such as hemp seed oil, rope, paper, fuel, household accessories, clothing, soap, building blocks, etc.

The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted in December 2020 to remove marijuana from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs where it was listed as one of the most dangerous drugs. The decision is expected to highlight the medicinal and therapeutic potential of marijuana as well as drive scientific research into marijuana.

Hemp Growing Permits and Licenses in South Africa

South Africa is among the few African countries that have passed laws to allow the cultivation, processing, and distribution of industrial and medical cannabis. However, you will need a license or permit to cultivate, process, or distribute hemp. Other countries in Africa include Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Ghana.

Personal Cannabis License

The Constitutional Court legalized the private use of cannabis in 2018 after finding that banning personal cannabis use was an infringement of a person’s right to privacy. You do not need a license to grow and use your own cannabis in South Africa. However, any form of cannabis trade is still illegal. Although growing cannabis for personal use is allowed, the proposed new Cannabis Bill recommends the possession of up to 600g of dried cannabis per person or a maximum of 1200g per household with two or more adults. Consuming cannabis in public is also illegal.

Hemp Farmers’ License

Licenses for hemp farmers in South Africa are mainly for research purposes, and they require heavy paperwork to process. Additionally, farmers will need to invest in grow facilities before acquiring a license since South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) will first inspect the facility and its quality-control procedure. Hemp growers in South Africa can buy seeds locally from pharmacies or animal feed shops or buy imported hemp seed. For imported hemp seeds, farmers will need a special permit to allow them to import the seeds. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (DAFF) issues seed permits in South Africa.

The Cannabis Development Council of South Africa (CDCSA) is a proposed self-regulating Cannabis Industry Association. It will help to regulate and control the cannabis industry of South Africa. Some of its activities will include the following:

  • Advice on new legislative and regulatory frameworks so that adults can access regulated quality cannabis in line with international health and safety standards.
  • Ensuring that the South African cannabis industry is protected from exploitation by foreign corporations.
  • To ensure that all license and permit applicants get a fair and equitable opportunity as defined by law.
  • To ensure that the youth do not abuse cannabis.
  • CDCSA will help to uplift local communities through education, healthcare, and job creation.
  • To boost South Africa’s economy through maximum exploration and exploitation of the great potential in cannabis.

Medical Cannabis License

Getting a medical cannabis license in South Africa is hectic as it follows a strict bureaucratic process. Furthermore, you will need to dig deeper into your pockets as the associated costs are quite high. Hemp farmers and producers for medicinal purposes will need to acquire a license from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) by filling out this application form and a permit from the Department of Health under the Medicines Control Council. Additionally, applicants will also need to apply for a permit to acquire, possess, manufacture, use, or supply cannabis at the Director-General of Health office. The following is a list of guidelines published by the SAHPRA for prospective medical cannabis growers.

  • Applicants for the medical cannabis license must not have been convicted for an illicit drug-related offense.
  • Farmers must show the ability to adhere to the Good Manufacturing Practice in South Africa.
  • Medical cannabis license applicants will need to show adequate measures to ensure security, transport, and employment of suitable persons.


Now that South Africans are aware of the great value in the hemp market, there is vast interest in obtaining licenses and growing hemp legally. With South African’s natural climate, rich agricultural tradition, and affordable land, the South African hemp market can boost its economy. This is made possible through job creation and revenue generation if appropriate legal frameworks are put in place.


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